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A Life lived in Jogging Bottoms? Why We May Need the Office.
10 Oct 2020
by Shelley

COVID-19 has hurled us into a new way of living and working, seemingly overnight.

No longer are we rushing into the office on a Monday morning, Pret coffee in hand, hearing all about John’s trip to the Costa Del Sol, or complementing Mia on her new hair-do.

Remote working has officially become the norm, and it looks like it’s here to stay, and with it will come the changing of work place relationships, human interaction, and an increase in time spent using technology.

The New 'Normal'

Almost 50% of the UK’s workforce was working from home during the height of the lockdown, and now we have had a taste, employers including Natwest, Virgin Money, and Twitter, admit that working from home could be here to stay, with many employers expected to follow suit.

Ministers in Wales say they would like to see 30% of the workforce working remotely after the crisis, in order to improve quality of life and reduce congestion.

But is remote working all it’s cut out to be?

And do we need to take a step back and think about how relationships, learning, progression, and wellbeing will be affected if we lose the office culture and our work life becomes almost completely digital?

Why We May Still Need the Office

Personally, my greatest lifelong friendships have been made during my career working in an office.

Working side-by-side with colleagues every day, means that you know exactly how they take their tea, what they have for lunch every day, basically all of their habits (good and bad), all of their dramas, and somehow along the way, you often end up building lasting relationships.

Indeed, some of my ‘work friends’ know more about me than lifelong friends do. That’s the nature of the office. Complete strangers are thrown together for 35+ hours per week, and like it or loathe it, you become part of the fabric of each other’s lives.

Working side-by-side with people who have different skills and experiences can push your out of your comfort zone, help you to learn new things, and improve your social and emotional intelligence.

Personally, I am not a big fan of meetings or presentations, but I know that from years of working in an office and taking part in them, that I have vastly developed my communication skills and confidence, and learnt a lot about myself along the way (good and bad!).

A Life Lived in Jogging Bottoms

Of course, everyone is different, but  working from home is pushing me into a comfort zone.

I am easily distracted, I have less non-work chats with colleagues, and my self-esteem and confidence is suffering from too many days sat behind a computer wearing jogging bottoms that will never be used to jog in.

And I’m not alone - a survey from Nuffield Health, found that 80% of people thought that working from home during COVID-19 lockdown had negatively impacted their mental health.

Tech burnout is becoming a massive issue – Ofcom reports that during the lockdown, UK adults spent more than 45 hours per week watching online video and entertainment services.  7 in 10 adults made at least one video call per week.

Ofcom’s Director of Strategy and Research, Yih-Choung Teh, commented:

“Coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.”

Indeed, increased remote working will mean dramatically less face-to-face interaction with other humans, with less offline meetings, less coffee breaks with colleagues, and, of course, we can say goodbye to those after work drinks.

'Zoom Anxiety' is a term that has been kicking around the internet in recent months, as many people struggle with awkward and fatiguing conversations, which can leave little room for meaningful interactions.

Why People Need People

Of course, for some, not having to work side-by-side with colleagues will come as a massive relief. But studies have shown that most people do need people.

‘Social Relationships and Mortality Risk’, a study of 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. 

It is something we need to be aware of when things return to normal, and learning, workplaces, and relationships, become more remote and reliant on technology than ever before.

We must ensure that colleagues can work remotely, yet still have meaningful human interactions, build relationships, learn new skills, and reduce their screen time and reliance on technology.

An that's where techtimeout can help...!

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